Understanding the difference between CAT6A cable types

Understanding the difference between CAT6A cable types

CAT6A cable, also referred to as Category 6A patch leads or cat 6a cables, is becoming the cable of choice for many structured cabling networks. CAT6A cable allows for the transmission of up to 10Gbps and is fast becoming the cabling infrastructure of choice for VoIP, CCTV and data networks.

Specified for use in Class Ea networks, CAT6A cable allows for extremely high data rate transmission of up 10Gbps and at a frequency of 500Mhz.

In fact, CAT6A fully supports 10GBASE-T up to 100 metres in channel length which ensures that it can support the fastest Ethernet applications.

There are 2 main types of CAT6A cable that conform to these standards, shielded and unshielded, which are often referred to as F/UTP and U/UTP.

Some use the term FTP and UTP to distinguish between shielded and unshielded cable however according to the ISO/IEC standards, the first letters indicate the type of overall shield while the latter letters indicate the type of shielding on each pair and the balanced element. Therefore, F/UTP and U/UTP is the easiest way to distinguish cable types.

CAT6A U/UTP means the cable consists of 4 unshielded twisted pairs and no outer shielding.

CAT6A F/UTP means the cable consists of 4 unshielded twisted pairs however it contains an outer foil shield. This is a shielded cable.

There is also S/FTP (screened/foiled twisted pair) cable, normally a CAT7 cable that has four individually shielded pairs and an outer screen braid around all four pairs.

CAT 6A U/UTP is constructed in a certain way to help minimize cross talk and ANEXT. This includes larger conductors, (23 AWG minimum), tighter twists, extra internal airspace, an internal separator between the pairs, and thicker outer jacket. These features typically increase the outer diameter of the cable.

CAT6A F/UTP is constructed in a similar manner however it contains an outer foil shield, underneath the outer cable jacket.

The foil shield acts as a barrier preventing EMI/RFI from coupling onto the twisted pairs from adjacent cables. In effect, it reflects the noise or interference from lights, machinery and other sources of EMI, as well as RFI from cell phones and wireless access points, In addition, the foil shield prevents data signals from leaking out of the cable.

If you are using shielded F/UTP CAT6A cable in an installation, a compatible shielded connector should be used. Likewise, an unshielded cable should be used with unshielded connectors.


cat6 cable types

Deciding on whether to implement a shielded or unshielded cabling solution depends on a number of factors including ease of installation, cost, EMI, ANEXT and is a debate that has valid arguments on either side.

Before deciding on the best approach, all factors need to be weighed up so that the installed system lasts well in to the future is and is able to handle 10GBASE-T applications.


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